Gabby Douglas, Her Terrible Tweets, Shoving Sexual Assault Under the Rug & the Switch Up

Gabby Douglas, 21-year old Olympian and Gold medalist, has always had a soft spot in Black America’s heart. She’s young, gifted, (Black), and poppin’ so that’s pretty much all we needed to get on board. Throughout her career she has faced a lot of criticism particularly about the way she looks. Her hair has been a topic of discussion on many occasions, especially on social media. Many white Twitter users  attacked Gabby during the Olympics when she didn’t put her hand over her heart during the National Anthem. But in typical Black people fashion, we rushed to her defense, most of us banding together to build a protective shield around her. We were rooting for her, and hoping she’d ultimately kick ass at the Olympics, which she did.

Aug 16, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Simone Biles (USA) and Aly Raisman (USA) celebrate after winning a medal during to the women’s floor exercise final in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-GRP-950 ORIG FILE ID: 20160816_ads_usa_382.JPG

She kicked ass along with another fave, Simone Biles. As time passed, we were glad to celebrate them both, loving the idea that two Black girls had helped bring home the Gold.

A few days ago though, everything took a sudden turn for the worst. The once revered athlete became the subject of a public Twitter dragging. It all started when Douglas’ teammate Aly Raisman posted this message to social media:

“Just because a woman does a sexy photo shoot or wears a sexy outfit does not give a man the right to shame her or not believe her when she comes forward about sexual abuse,” Raisman wrote. “What is wrong with some of you? AND when a woman dresses sexy it does not give a man the right to sexually abuse her EVER.

“Women are allowed to feel sexy and comfortable in their own skin, in fact I encourage you all to wear what you feel good in. I will not put up with any woman or girl being shamed for wanting to wear a skirt, dress, etc. I do not tolerate it. Are we clear? Oh and one more thing. STOP VICTIM SHAMING. It is because of you that so many survivors live in fear.”

Over the last few months sexual assault allegations in Hollywood have been flying left and right. Everybody from Democratic Senator Al Franken to well known actors Kevin Spacey and Charlie Sheen have been accused of wrongdoing. Unfortunately, the world of gymnastics has similar problems of its own. When Aly Raisman spoke out about victim blaming and sexual assault, however, Gabby was less than understanding of her teammate’s position. She responded with a tweet, and was immediately called out by teammate Simone Biles.

Of course, since then, Gabby Douglas has apologized, but there are a number of things I’ve been wanting to address.

  1. The disappointment. It really sucks when you feel you’ve supported someone and they do or say something incredibly stupid. If there’s one thing I wish, it’s that these celebrities would finally surrender their social media accounts to their PR person or social media manager. I am so tired of celebs we once admired falling from grace because of something they’ve shared on the Internet. Sure, celebs usually apologize within hours of saying something that the Internet didn’t like, but it begs the question of whether or not they are actually sorry, or are simply doing their due diligence to insure that their brand isn’t tarnished any further.

2. Really taking a look at sexual assault/rape allegations and how people respond to them. Gabby is not the only person who feels like sexual assault victims are part responsible for what happens to them. We’ve heard this narrative over and over again. We have to call out toxic statements that blame or shame the victims who are brave enough to speak out. Gabby seems to have some internalized feelings.

Here are some good resources on the topic:

The Psychology of Victim Blaming

Rape Culture

Teen Vogue Roy Moore

3. The Black community’s hypocritical response to Gabby’s tweet. While it’s a fact that Gabby’s comments were insensitive, toxic, and out of line, it’s also a fact that hundreds (maybe thousands) of Black tweeters weaponized Gabby’s natural hair in an effort to berate her. Black people are now using the same insults and slurs against Gabby that they’d been “defending” her from in the past. This really bothers me to see. The comments from the lighter skinned Black women with finer hair especially made me cringe.

There were many other comments like that. Just search Twitter if you want to see. But of course, Queen Cardi B came through with a tweet in Gabby’s defense.

After all this, I wonder how we handle situations such as these? Can Gabby learn from her mistake? Is this “Cancel Culture” a bit over the top, or do celebs who mess up deserve to be ousted? What is the appropriate response when something like this happens? Do we fight fire with fire? How can we better deal with the overwhelming amount of sexual assault allegations without blaming the victim, or crucifying people who may in fact be innocent? Can we find a balance, or will everything just continue to go up in flames?


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